Sunday 9 June 2013

Duck, You Sucker! (A Fistful of Dynamites) [1971]

Spaghetti-master chef Sergio Leone’s final Western and penultimate film as a director, Duck, You Sucker! continues to remain under-watched and underrated to this day despite its ambitious scope and excellent amalgamation of the crude fun, colorful characters, operatic mounting and strong political potential of the sub-genre. It begins with Mao’s wry remark on what entails a revolution that immediately put things into perspective. Set in 1913 during the Mexican Revolution, it paired two delectably etched unpredictable and amoral characters together – Juan Miranda (Rod Steiger), an uncouth, crooked and self-serving outlaw whose dream is to rob the Mesa Verde bank, and John Mallory (James Coburn), a former Irish revolutionary and explosives expert working on the Mexican revolutionaries trying to overthrow the ruthless military junta led by General Huerta. From its cheeky beginning to its poignant climax, the gleefully topsy-turvy narrative painted a riotous yet quietly affecting picture of the burgeoning friendship of these two larger-than-life characters at the backdrop of the bloody civil war. There was no dearth of spectacular and explosive sequences, neither was it wanting for hilarious and ironic moments; yet, contrapuntally, it also provided rich character portrayals of the two protagonists and layered observations on the cost of a revolution, the fragile nature of allegiance and morality, and how unbridled violence and tragedy are common parameters for both the sides. The resplendent visuals, the marvelous score by Ennio Morricone, the memorable set-pieces and the superb acting by the cast, and Steiger in particular, added to this grand and powerful extravaganza that was besieged with gargantuan problems and clashes right from its conception through its production to even after its release.

Director: Sergio Leone
Genre: Western/Spaghetti Western
Language: Italian/English
Country: Italy


Sam Juliano said...

Shubhajit, I absolutely adore this film, and it was surely one of the highlights of the Film Forum's spaghetti western festival. It is absolutely underrated and too often overshadowed by the big Leone epics. Great to see you mentioned Morricone's score, which is haunting and unforgettable (one of his best) and the standout performances by Steiger and Coburn. But if this isn't Entertainment with a Capital E, I don't know what is. Great review!

Shubhajit said...

Could not agree more with you Sam. For all its theme & scope, it was, foremost, an incredibly entertaining & enjoyable film. So memorably over-the-top at places & yet so exquisitely controlled at others. I can appreciate what a marvelous experience it would have been for you to watch this on big screen. Thanks Sam for sharing your love for this film.